United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
For CHAD LEE MORRIS, Defendant: ROBERT A. BROADIE, LEAD ATTORNEY, CAROLINA LEGAL SOLUTIONS, HIGH POINT, NC.
For USA, Plaintiff: ANAND PRAKASH RAMASWAMY, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, GREENSBORO, NC.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
James A. Beaty, Jr., United States District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on Defendant Chad Lee Morris's Motion to Suppress [Doc. #15]. Defendant Chad Lee Morris (" Defendant" ) is under indictment for one count of receiving child pornography and one count of distributing child pornography, both in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(a)(2)(A). On February 12, 2014, Defendant moved to suppress self-incriminating statements made while he was interrogated by law-enforcement agents during a search of his home, pursuant to a search warrant. The Court held a hearing on the Motion on March 6, 2014. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion will be GRANTED.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
For purposes of disposing of this Motion, the Court makes the following findings of fact. On the morning of April 4, 2013, approximately eight federal and state law-enforcement agents executed a search warrant for Defendant's home as a result of an investigation into online sharing of child pornography. When the agents approached the residence, many of them had weapons drawn. Some agents approached from the front of the house and some approached from the back of the
house. Defendant answered the front door to several agents with weapons drawn, one of which grasped Defendant's arm and physically escorted him onto the porch. Defendant's arms were thereafter restrained behind his back until the residence was secured. Defendant was then led back into the residence and directed to a chair in his living room.
In securing the residence during the search, armed officers encountered Defendant's wife in a dark bedroom. She was awoken by multiple agents, with at least one of the agents pointing his gun into the room she occupied. Defendant's wife was told to put her hands where the agents could see them, which she did. She asked the agents to hand her a shirt to put on, and after she put the shirt on in the agents' presence, she was sent into the living room to wait while officers conducted the remainder of the search.
Early on in the search, Defendant's father arrived on the scene. After asking Defendant two questions while Defendant was on the front porch, his father was instructed to return to his car and told that he could not enter the residence. Although the evidence did not specifically reveal Defendant's age, it was noted that Defendant had no criminal record and that he had not been involved in any previous criminal activity.
Throughout the entire encounter, Defendant was never told that he was free to leave or that he was not under arrest. He was instructed that if he needed to use the restroom or get up for any reason, that he was to inform one of the agents before doing so. Eventually, two agents accompanied Defendant into a back room, shut the door, and proceeded to question Defendant for approximately 45 minutes to one hour. ...